By Joel Francis
The King of Rock and Roll is alive and well, according to local psychiatrist Don Hinton.
Hinton, who works at Independence Regional Health Center, says he has been treating Elvis Presley for the past five years.
“What I’ve seen him mostly for is chronic pain,” said Hinton, who says he travels ‘somewhere in the South’ to treat Elvis. “He has severe arthritis, but I’ve also been there as a friend.”
Hinton is earnest but recognizes there will be skeptics and critics.
“There are people who wouldn’t accept it no matter what I would say or do unless he were here eye-to-eye, and then they would want a blood test or DNA test,” Hinton said.
“I’m a young doctor. This is my family, my career. I would not be doing this if it weren’t the truth.”
Becoming Elvis’ physician is no easy task. Hinton was a member of group of people who knew of Elvis’ existence for more than five years before he was finally able to speak to the King over the telephone.
“By the time I was in his presence it had been proven to me beyond the shadow of a doubt,” Hinton said. “I was allowed to meet him because I was a physician and trusted. Friends had known me for 10 years.”
Hinton said he and Elvis became such good friends that the King asked him to help with his book, “The Truth About Elvis Aron Presley, In His Own Words.”
“When I first started there was no talk of a book, and I had to promise not to tell a soul,” Hinton said. “In early ’98 he started talking about wanting to do a book.”
Shrewd Elvis fans may recognize that Elvis’ middle name is spelled “Aaron” on his gravestone at Graceland. However, in a letter on the book’s official Web site, http://www.thetruthaboutelvisjesse.com, Elvis himself explains that “I was the one who allowed the ‘A’ on my stone. … The extra ‘A’ was the first letter of the word ‘alive.’ “
According to the book, Elvis staged his death in 1977 and assumed the identity of his twin brother Jesse who was born dead.
“This plan began back in 1976 and it was down to the last detail,” Hinton said. “In his mind what happened in 1977 was not a lie because it was necessary.”
Elvis, who became famous for songs like “Love Me Tender” and “Hound Dog,” and movies like “Jailhouse Rock” and “Viva Las Vegas,” died on Aug. 16, 1977, from an drug overdose. But now, Hinton says, Jesse, nee Elvis, is ready to reclaim the limelight.
“There is part of him that wants his fans to know the truth,” Hinton said. “He has to start talking about his life as Jesse and letting the fans know.”
And the book is just the beginning.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming,” Hinton said. “Beginning next month after his birthday there will be a TV special where celebrities who are his friends who know this is true will come forward. All of this will roll into the 25th anniversary in August.”
But Hinton is certainly not alone. Also among the inner circle of Elvis confidants is Linda Johnson, a neighbor and former co-worker of Hinton’s.
“My uncle was at one time his (Elvis’) dentist,” Johnson said. “That got me in through my relationship and honesty, just like Don. Really Don and I are the only ones in the same state.”
The Elvis book was not released by a major publishing house, Johnson said, because the King wanted to keep his book affordable for fans.
“We shopped around,” Johnson said. “We did our work.”
Larger publishers wouldn’t have accepted the work unless they saw the author typing it.
“He didn’t want to make it sensational or trashy,” Johnson said. “It wanted it to be inexpensive for fans. Most big publishers wanted him sitting in front of them writing.”
Today, Hinton and Johnson said, Elvis is a changed man.
“He’s a very spiritual man. I wouldn’t say he’s a monk, but it’s a completely different world for him,” Hinton said. “He’s turned off by money and show business.”
One thing important to Elvis, er Jesse, these days is privacy.
“He’s more protected than the president but still cannot trust people around him,” Hinton said. “This whole thing was his wish. If he didn’t want it to come out, I would have taken it to my grave.”
Hinton even kept it a secret from his wife, Heather, when they were dating.
“The phone would ring and he would just go into another room and shut the door and come out later,” Heather Hinton said. “He finally told me so I wouldn’t be frustrated or upset.”
Heather Hinton admitted she was skeptical at first.
“When he started explaining what was going on and when I saw things I believed,” Heather Hinton said. “He (Don Hinton) showed me pictures and different things that had been sent to him.”
Color Heather Hinton among the believers.
“I just went with whatever he said as long as it didn’t hurt the family,” Heather Hinton said. “I just thought he wouldn’t do something unless he was pretty sure.”
Don Hinton broke the news to his co-workers shortly before the book came out. He said the news hasn’t hurt his practice. Hinton’s co-workers at Independence Regional Health Center declined to be interviewed.
“It’s affected my practice just because of all the stress,” Don Hinton said. “I hear from people all over the world and 98 or 99 percent of it is positive.”